It's Time To Talk About Opioid Addiction
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It's Time To Talk About Opioid Addiction

115 people die every single day from opioid overdose. Within a decade, it is forecasted that 650,000 Americans will die from opioid overdose — that is larger than the size of Baltimore.

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It's Time To Talk About Opioid Addiction

This last year a very dear friend of mine, Michael, died in his parents home from a heroin overdose. Your first thought is probably a certain type of person. Maybe you're envisioning a troubled family that is living in poverty. That is often what comes to mind when one thinks of an opioid addict. The reality is that couldn't be any farther from the truth. This man comes from an affluent and wonderfully loving Christian family. He had every opportunity in the world growing up. He was engaged to a beautiful woman who is a nurse and they had a beautiful baby boy. His family worked tirelessly to help him beat this addiction. I remember in high school watching the addiction start. There were so many kids in my huge high school in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma taking prescription pills. I could name off-hand 25 people I know that have died from opioid overdose, are in prison from opioid-related crimes, or are just strung out and living a miserable life. I can also pinpoint who started the chain reaction within our grade. It's beyond sad.

Sadly, this isn't limited to my high school or even my state. This is a country-wide epidemic. It doesn't care about religious affiliation, social class or even race. According to the Opioid Policy Research, "Drug overdose deaths, once rare, are now the leading cause of accidental death in the US, surpassing peak annual deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, guns, and HIV infection."

Vox published, "If nothing is done, we can expect a lot of people to die: A forecast by STAT concluded that as many as 650,000 people will die over the next 10 years from opioid overdoses — more than the entire city of Baltimore. The US risks losing the equivalent of a whole American city in just one decade."According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a higher death toll than guns, car crashes, and HIV/AIDS ever killed in one year in the US, and a higher death toll than all US military casualties in the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined."

Opioids include legal prescription opiate pain pills like morphine, oxycodone or hydrocodone. Additionally, opioids include illegal items like heroin and fentanyl. According to the CDC, in 2016, more than 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses. Forty percent of all opioid overdose deaths include a prescription opioid from a doctor. Opioids are commonly abused because they are highly addictive.

According to CNN:

The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by doctors steadily increased from 112 million prescriptions in 1992 to a peak of 282 million in 2012, according to the market research firm IMS Health. The number of prescriptions dispensed has since declined, falling to 236 million in 2016.
Opioids bind to receptors in the brain and spinal cord, disrupting pain signals. They also activate the reward areas of the brain by releasing the hormone dopamine, creating a feeling of euphoria or a "high."
Hydrocodone and oxycodone are semi-synthetic opioids, manufactured in labs with natural and synthetic ingredients. Between 2007 and 2016, the most widely prescribed opioid was hydrocodone (Vicodin). In 2016, 6.2 billion hydrocodone pills were distributed nationwide. The second most prevalent opioid was oxycodone (Percocet). In 2016, 5 billion oxycodone tablets were distributed in the United States.
The International Narcotics Control Board reported that in 2015, Americans represented about 99.7% of the world's hydrocodone consumption. Fentanyl is a fully synthetic opioid, originally developed as a powerful anesthetic for surgery. It is also administered to alleviate severe pain associated with terminal illnesses like cancer. The drug is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Just a small dose can be deadly. Illicitly produced fentanyl has been a driving factor in the number of overdose deaths in recent years. Methadone is another fully synthetic opioid. It is commonly dispensed to recovering heroin addicts to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal.
People who become dependent on pain pills may switch to heroin because it is less expensive than prescription drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that half of young people who inject heroin turned to the street drug after abusing prescription painkillers, also that three in four new heroin users start out using prescription drugs.

This last year I've seen everyone up in arms talking about gun control. I also can relate to wanting to make sure we have the necessary parameters in place to avoid gun-related deaths, especially school shootings and others. They are terrifying and heartbreaking. However, while I see thousands of people up in arms over gun control, something I don't see them up in arms about is the opioid epidemic. And almost every family has been affected by opioid addiction in one way or another. Undoubtedly, big pharma, the government, and the healthcare system play a factor in that. Opioids are a big money machine for the United States. There is also a play on shame and guilt. Families don't want to admit their loved one is an addict, addicts don't want to admit they have an addiction. So this massive epidemic goes on in silence.

To give you some context, from 1990 to now there have been 202 school shooting-related deaths. That is far too many and I hope no other person loses their life tragically in a school shooting. We need a resolution for that, undoubtedly. At the same time, from 1999 to now there have been approximately 630,000 opioid-related deaths. On average 115 Americans die every day from opioid overdose.

There is a major stigma around opioid addiction and no one seems to want to talk about it even though it is costing us unfathomable amounts as a country and an even bigger amount of heartache in our families and communities. The opioid crisis is on track to cost us $500 billion from 2018-2020. It is estimated that from 2001 to 2017 the opioid epidemic has cost us more than $1 trillion. In 2017 alone, 62,000 Americans fatally overdosed on opioids. President Trump proposed $17 billion towards this opioid crisis but experts say they need at least $100 billion and even that may not be enough.

So we have hundreds of people dying every day and an insanely high national cost but no one wants to talk about this. There is such a stigma around opioid addiction. I think part of the stigma is related to appearances. People don't realize or want to admit this opioid crisis affects people in every single walk of life from the poor to the rich and famous. Demi Lovato is reported to have recently had an opioid overdose. Thankfully, she survived but that is obviously not the case for thousands. Even more recently, Mac Miller just died from a drug overdose. Everyone is sending condolences but no one is talking about change or help.

This crisis is tearing apart families and communities everywhere. To try and end the stigma and show that this crisis affects people from all walks of life, I have interviewed addicts &/or recovering addicts as well as family and loved ones of addicts. Seeing their perspectives and sharing situations might open up more dialogue to end the stigma and start working toward viable solutions. I know almost every single person in this article personally and it breaks my heart to see what opioid addiction has done to them. However, I am also extremely grateful they decided to allow me to share their story in hopes it will help someone else. The strength and humility these people are showing in their vulnerability is moving. Allow me to introduce you to the reality of addiction. It's time to talk about opioid addiction.


***Disclaimer, a few names have been omitted to due privacy or certain situations***

Beige Jackson, 28 years old, wife, mother - Recovering Addict
Q: When/Why did you use opioids for the first time?
A: In high school. My mom has prescribed them so I would occasionally take them at a party or when hanging out with my friends. At first, I didn't like them because they made me nauseous. There was about a 3-year time span between when I first tried them to becoming an addict.

Q: What feeling did opioid use give you?
A: Extremely relaxed. Happy. Just really care-free. I wasn't worried about anything when I was high.

Q: When did it become an addiction?
A: I started dating a guy who took them every day. I was pretty naive about drugs and didn't realize if I took them every day I would become physically sick. It was two months after I first started taking them daily that I realized I was addicted. I woke up horribly sick and depressed and my ex told me it was because I hadn't had a pill. I knew then I was in trouble.

Q: How did opioid addiction affect your life?
A: From the very first time I felt withdrawal symptoms, I knew I never wanted to feel that bad again. I would do whatever I had to, to stay high. I think that is the number one reason most addicts keep using - you don't want to be sick. You will lie, steal, cheat, whatever it takes. I stole from my family, I shoplifted, "borrowed." My life was 100% consumed and driven by the drug. I had to get the next fix at any cost. These drugs are pure evil. They literally come into your life and steal your soul. You completely lose who you are and any care about being a good person. You are just sad, lost and hopeless. And eventually, you give up on any hopes and dreams you had and convince yourself that you are just destined to be a junkie and that you don't deserve any better.

Q: Did family or friends try to help you?
A: Yes. My friends mostly disconnected from me. From what they have said, it was too painful to watch me go down. They never directly said anything because I was never honest with them about what was going on. My family tried to help - they had an intervention for me and put me in outpatient treatment. But I wasn't ready to stop, so being forced into going didn't work. It wasn't until everyone quit enabling me. My mom kicked me out so I had nowhere to go. I decided then that it was time for me to get treatment.

Q: What was your lowest moment while doing opioids:
A: Getting caught stealing my mom and grandma's pain pills. I was sick after I got caught my mom kicked me out and I couldn't find any pills so I contemplated finding heroin. That's when I realized how bad it had gotten and if I didn't stop it was about to get even worse.

Q: What made you want to get help?
A: I was tired. Tired of being sick and hustling for money every day for my addiction. I had literally lost everything so I had nothing to lose by trying to get sober.

Q: What did your rehabilitation look like?
A: In December of 2012, I went to an all-women rehab for 8 weeks. I relapsed a few months later so in July of 2013, I went to detox in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and moved into sober living housing. I haven't used pills since but I did drink which eventually led me to treatment for that in September of 2016. I have been sober since.

Q: Why was your treatment successful?
A: There is only one reason this last treatment has worked and the first time didn't. I finally did what the counselors and recovered addicts told me to do. Go to meetings every day, get a sponsor and work the steps. Get counseling. There is a reason to do this - it is what keeps people sober. If you go to treatment with even the smallest hint that you will use again, you are wasting your time. You have to be completely done with ALL mind-altering substances. Cross-addiction is a very real and it happened to me. I switched the pills for alcohol and it was just as hard to quit and just as much hell as the drugs. Except for this time I had more to lose - a husband and a child.

Q: People always say, "Why don't you just quit?" Why isn't as simple as just stopping?
A: People don't understand how much addiction takes from you. Not only are you scared of withdrawals, you have no hope left for your life. You don't realize it can get better until you get sober and start seeing it happen. Drugs and alcohol are how you get used to coping with your feelings and emotions. Thinking about dealing with life sober is scary at first. If it was as easy as just stopping no one would be a drug addict.

Q: What do you want others/non-addicts to know about addiction?
A: It is a lifelong disease. We will battle with this every day of our lives. Some days are easier than others. Don't give up. Know that nothing you do or say can get or keep someone sober. It is and has to be 100% our decision. Until we are ready to get and stay sober, it won't happen. You can't love someone into getting clean.

Q: What do you wish addicts knew or tried?
A: Be 100% done with all substances (weed, alcohol, etc.) Go to treatment if you can, get counseling, go to meetings, get a sponsor. Find a group of people you can call if you feel yourself slipping. Don't ever stop trying, even if you mess up. Always remember drugs will never help anything. It might take away the feeling for a moment but it will always return worse than before. You have nothing to lose by getting sober and everything to gain. And pray!

Q: What's your life like now?
A: I have two beautiful children that God willing will never see their mom drunk or high. I have a husband who is supportive and we have fought like hell to get to where we are today and are stronger than ever. I have amazing family and friends. I have a great job and after only a year and a half, I have a house, a car, I pay my bills on time. Most importantly, I am happy - genuinely happy. I know that no matter what I face, every day, I can get through it sober. I still talk to my sponsor every day and have a whole group of people in recovery I can count on anytime. Life is good.

Beige also said:

The most encouraging thing as a recovering addict is being asked to help others. It's what gives us a sense that our struggles served a bigger purpose. I hate the shame that's associated with talking about addiction. It's why so many stay silent and never get help or lie and say they are sober when they aren't. It's really sad.


Cody Higgins, 29, Recovering Addict
Q: When/why did you use opioids for the first time?
A: A little bit of a back story, I was never a shy kid when it came to wanting to party and experience drugs when I was young. Even then, I HATED pain pills, just didn't like the feeling of being low and nauseous, didn't understand the appeal. I have buried friends over them as well so I always stayed away from them.

When the heavy use started it was the Summer of 2016 and mainly because I was depressed from my ex of 2.5 years cheating on me and just didn't want to be in my feelings at the time. When I was cleaning out the bathroom cabinets after she had moved out I found a script of 30 5mg Percocet. My exact thought was, "F*&K It", being a little numb doesn't sound bad. What a slippery slope that ended up being.

Q: What feeling did opioid use give you?
A: At first, it was the usual take/snort one, feel like shit and have to lay down to take a nap because it just made me tired. After the third day of taking them at nights after I got home from work/gym, I remember snorting a whole one and I got the most amazing euphoria and felt focused. Made me feel like I had my motivation back, mainly I was just masking the mental pain with drugs which made me think i was doing better.

Q: When did it become an addiction?
A: I started out just using them at night after the gym, but I remember the day like it was yesterday when I woke up and without even thinking about it I was crushing up pill just to feel better getting out of bed. It was all downhill from there.

Q: How did opioid addiction affect your life?
A: Personal Life - Well to begin with I know it made me miss some opportunities with people that I may never get back because of either, 1. I made up a drastic excuse on why I couldn't get something done for someone. 2. Just avoided contact with the outside world for my personal endeavors.

Work Life -This is the one part that never fell, I knew without it I couldn't support my habit. I could take a couple of pain pills and sit down with some headphones on and just work for hours and hours. I buried myself in work during this time. Made some good career advances but at the same time, it makes me wonder what I could have done sober. I was productive for about 14 hours of a day, then I had to crash out.

Q: Did your family or friends try to help you?
A: The ones the knew absolutely did. Most people didn't know I was using as heavy as I was. I have had back issues my entire life so that is how I hid it from my parents they ever asked. Which neither of them did as I made sure I wasn't too messed up around them.

Q: What was your lowest moment while doing opioids?
A: The worst time I had was here about 2 months ago near the end of me taking pills. I had 428 dollars to my name and was getting paid again in a couple of days. I had a bill due in the meantime that was 289.00. I justified buying 400 dollars worth of pills just because I could make my bill payment in a couple of days and just pay the 10 dollar late fee. That is when I broke down and really started questioning myself. It blew me away that I could justify spending ALL of my money on pills instead of, getting an oil change for my truck, paying the cell phone bill, fuck even saving the money. You will tell yourself anything. The problem with it and any addiction are this, you start relating it to something in your life, i.e., mine was productivity. Sounds crazy I know, but I was taking almost 100mg a day, and if I didn't have any I was worthless because my heads and body hurt so bad.

Q: What made you want to get help?
A: I have always been a very strong minded person, and when it becomes a 2,000 dollar a month habit, something has to change. I looked sick, no muscle on me anymore. I could tell my brain function was slipping for remembering basic shit and I just felt super insecure about myself.

Q: What did your rehabilitation look like?
A: I stopped 07/01/18 cold turkey, with the help my best friend and girlfriend. I took a couple days off work before the weekend so I could rest and go to the gym/sauna to get the drug out of my system as fast as possible. It is the toughest things I have done and still continue to work on. The mental side of the game is the hardest. I did smoke some weed during this transition period as I had a hell of a time focusing on anything. My muscles felt like I had the flu body aches for 4 days, super restless all the time, felt heavy just walking on my feet like I just couldn't put the other foot in form of the other. It consumes your mind if you don't pick up something to make you think otherwise, i.e., the gym, hiking, nature, meditating, and really just anything that makes you want to get out of bed.

Q: Why was your treatment successful?
A: So far so good, the mental side has been clearing up quite a bit. My body feels great again.

Q: Many people see addicts & think why don't they just stop?! Can you explain from an addicts view why it isn't that simple?
A: I used to be one of these people. My words to them are to try and understand wanting/hating something so bad, that you will tell yourself anything just to give yourself permission that it is okay. I tried quitting many many times, it got to the point that I would get clean for a week or so and then reward myself with more pills because I was clean. That is how far the excuses will go in your head to just get that one more fix.


Q: What do you want others to know about addiction?
A: People need a good support system that isn't going to judge them. Trust us, we know what we are doing is wrong and killing us, we aren't that dumb. We just don't know how to get out sometimes. Need a kick in the ass in the sense of, I am here if you need to talk or just come over and kick it because you need to get your mind off of wondering. It takes a lot for addicts to admit there is a real problem, if we knew how to explain the power it had over us, we wouldn't have an addiction problem.

Q: What do you wish addicts knew or tried?
A: There is always light at the end of the tunnel, I promise. Remember the things that used to make you happy! I don't care if that is finding some sand to make a sand castle. Get back to the basics of making your soul smile. You will then start finding the joy of day to day life. You are not worthless, and you do not deserve anything of this nature. Try and be all you can be! Because it is always something amazing underneath the drugs and pain.

Q: How do you think it affected your family/friends?
A: I know it broke their hearts just because they know the man I used/can be, and that was slipping.

Q: What's your life like now?
A: It is amazing, you have to take it one day at a time though. The urge is always there somewhere and it will pop up out of nowhere (Triggers). The key is understanding your triggers and know how to combat them. I love that I am getting back to the things that make me happy. It takes a lot of effort to get back to those things, and mainly because it is always easier to just sit back and get high when things get tough.

Q: What has sobriety been like?
A: 98% of the time it is awesome! My thought process and brain functions are coming back to full capacity as far as I can tell. I am a much faster problem solver and I can remember short-term things again. I am back at the gym and crave that high now. It is tough sometimes but at the same time, I now use it as a challenge to beat my own mind at its own game. (If that makes sense)

Q: Is it a struggle to stay sober?
A: Some days yes, you get upset or see/hear something that triggers you and it is hard to get your mind back straight those days. I have almost relapsed a couple of times due to this, but I made myself drive straight past where I get them and to the gym to work myself tired. It is the last place I want to be those days, but once I am done I feel like I have accomplished something and beat the urge. That makes you smile when you know you beat it that day!

Q: What helps you stay sober?
A: Some of the time I smoke a little weed to help slow my mind down on the days it is running 1000 mph. Other than that, I go to the gym every morning to start my day, 10 minutes of meditation and eating healthy. You have to give yourself tasks throughout the day, don't let yourself get bored. That is when your mind starts wondering and you sometimes make bad decisions. Friends checking up on me and making sure I am doing well. I have admitted it to a couple more people and they are super supportive of my path.

Q: Anything else you'd like to mention?
A: I just want people to know that it can happen to anyone. You are not a POS or a bad person just because you fell into an addiction. If you don't have a good support system you can always reach out. I found that a third party perspective was really nice sometimes because they didn't though their personal opinion. Just know that you can get through this and life is so much better without pills. I understand how hard it is, I really do. Just keep grinding and be the best You, you can be!


Trey Houston, 28, Recovering Addict
Q: When/why did you use opioids for the first time?
A: The first time I used an opioid was in September of 2011. I broke my neck in a car accident and I had to have surgery. They shaved a piece of my hip bone off and they grafted it between my C5 and C6 vertebrae. I was in a wheelchair for just under a year, with a halo screwed into 3 points on my skull. Because of the halo in my head, in addition to the pain from the surgery, I was on consistent medication for the duration of the 11 months I spent in the wheelchair. I was prescribed fentanyl, in the form of a patch. I placed a new patch on my chest or arm, every 2-3 days.

Q: What feeling did opioid use give you?
A: The feeling that it gave me was simply escapism. At first, it was just relief from the pain. Later on, it became relief from the depression and the aspects of my life that I was not willing to face.

Q: When did it become an addiction?
A: It became an addiction at some point while I was in the wheelchair, although I would not recognize the fruition of that addiction until after I got out of the wheelchair and I was no longer prescribed the drug. My body would hurt throughout the time I was in recovery from the surgery. I had to have a machine hooked to my legs several times a week to induce blood flow and prevent sores from inactivity. I assumed the pain was just a normal byproduct of recovery, but most of it stemmed from my bodies reliance on the drugs. Throughout the duration of this period, I was increasing how often I changed my patch. I would tell the doctors I needed more or stronger dosages. Once I got out of the neck brace and they switched my medication to a drug that was supposed to wean me off of the fentanyl, I became very ill. I would, shake, sweat, and ache in every joint in my body. I began to buy it illegally.

Q: How did opioid addiction affect your life?
A: For a decent amount of time, it did not affect my life. At least from the perspective of those around me. I maintained a good job, had acquired a master's degree from a good school; and as I became aware of my addiction, I isolated myself more and more, under the guise of work and extracurriculars. This was an attempt to hide the possible discovery of any of my shortcomings. I was miserable during this time period though. I hurt on a daily basis and counted down the minutes until I could get home, hideaway, and take just enough to get me through until the next moment I had to myself. I took no joy in anything in my life. I was just on autopilot.

Q: Did your family or friends try to help you?
A: I was very good about hiding it. When everything came crashing down for me, no one had realized that I had a problem. And anyone that might have tried to help if they had known, I had already been attempting to push out of my life in order to save my own ego from having to admit any weakness. After I got in trouble, I made it as a one-off mistake, so I still did not have to admit how bad I was. Unfortunately, I had always been a high achiever, so people believed me when I said that I was alright.

Q: What was your lowest moment while doing opioids?
A: In 2014, I got into a car accident while high. I sent two people to the hospital and was facing prison time. I had not been in serious trouble before (and hopefully after) that occurrence. So I was given a 5-year deferred felony sentence. This meant that I lost my good job and until this coming April, I have a felony on my record. It also meant that between fines, restitution, and probation, I have paid out close to $50,000.

Q: What made you want to get help?
A: For a while after the getting in my wreck and hurting two innocent people, I still did not have the desire to seek any help. I was in a place of self-pity. "I had done everything that I was always told to do in life. Work hard, study, strive. It wasn't my fault that someone ran a red light and hit me and broke my neck. It wasn't my fault that the doctor's kept me on opiates for a year." I was lost, depressed, and directionless. Then, without the drugs, I actually had to face that for the first time. I spent a good six months trying to determine if it was worth trying to work through any of it. I sat down each evening for many months, trying to justify the prudence of killing myself. Trying to refute any value that my existence might possibly have. Through a long process (I can go into more detail if you want to get into that) I eventually ruled that out as an option. That meant that the only thing left to do was to strive to improve, otherwise, I had no desire to continue to exist. I had spent the past few years not wanting to wake up each day.

Q: What did your rehabilitation look like?
A: Unfortunately, when you get into any trouble for substance abuse, the only approved treatments, are 12-step programs. The problem there is that they have very low success rates. I have been required to go to these programs for over 4 plus years under the terms of my probation, as well as paying thousands of dollars towards them. I found almost no benefit from them, however, as is the case with many people. That's a whole other topic in itself but here's an interesting article that's pretty easy to consume on it.

https://psmag.com/social-justice/75-years-alcoholics-anonymous-time-admit-problem-74268

I attended these 12 step types of treatments because it was required, but I did a lot of research on my own, until determining what might help me. Some of my biggest influencers were Dr. Gabor Mate, and the MAPS organization. I eventually decided to take a very alternative route. I took a trip to a recovery center in South America through the MAPS organization and participated in a week-long ayahuasca ceremony. This was not a decision I made lightly, (and really a completely separate story and experience in itself.) After the week of medicine there, the treatment still involved 6 months of communication and Skype sessions with MAPS doctors and addiction therapists.

Q: Why was your treatment successful?
A: I think it is successful because I consider it ongoing. Life is continuous work and growth, whether you ever have an addiction or not.

Q: Many people see addicts & think why don't they just stop?! Can you explain from an addict's view why it isn't that simple? What do you want others to know about addiction?
A: I'm going to group these few questions together. A couple years ago my friend's mother was going through an addiction to alcohol and he asked me to try to explain addiction to him. Below is what I wrote to him and I think it does a good job of addressing these questions.

"I've spent my free time the past couple days disseminating how to best impart some advice that may offer even the slightest reprieve from your pain. If I'm being 100 percent forthright, I don't know how I can help. I spent years burning down almost everything positive that came into my life and I am left sifting through those ashes and salvaging what little that I can.
The only thing that I might be able to help you with is an understanding of the thought process. Although my struggle stemmed from far different trauma and circumstances than your mother's, the goal of the behavior is the same; escapism. The internal shutdown of vulnerability. When a pain is so vast or unbearable that it threatens to overwhelm our capacity to function, the best a brain can do is to find a way to shut down conscious awareness of it. Your mother and I both chose a substance to accomplish that. It allows the capacity to endure trauma that would otherwise seem to be catastrophic. The consequence of this, (besides the obvious health risks associated with drug abuse) is a wholesale dulling of emotional awareness. If you hold one thing down you hold down the adjoining.
Intuitively it seems obvious that it is better to feel than to not. Our feelings orient us, interpret the world for us and offer us vital information. They tell us what is dangerous and what is benign. What threatens our existence and what nurtures our growth. The same goes for emotions. They are an indispensable part of our sensory apparatus and an essential part of who we are. They make life worthwhile, exciting, challenging, beautiful, and meaningful. When we flee our vulnerability, we lose our full capacity for feeling emotion. We become emotional amnesiacs, not remembering ever having felt truly elated or truly sad. The opening of a nagging void experienced as alienation; a sense of deficient emptiness.
Cultures response to this only exacerbates the problem. Criminalization, marginalization, ostracism- piles on the adversity of climbing out of the pit, fueling the addictive behavior. There needs to be a less punitive and more compassionate, informed approach. I have heard it phrased before as "Don't ask the question, why the addiction, but why the pain?"
I understand that it can seem impossible to have compassion for someone whom you believe is choosing to live a life of addiction. Someone who chooses drugs over family, friends, responsibilities. But it is a common misconception that addiction is merely a simple choice or moral failing. Drug abuse affects the neurochemicals of the brain. These physical brain changes that occur over time impair an addicted person's reasoning capabilities and hamper the ability to resist impulses. I won't get into the technical aspects of how the brain is affected but I can point you to that information if you are interested.
Really the only advice that I can give to you is that shame and guilt cannot coexist with compassion. If you can create a place for compassion, then you can create the opportunity for healing. She has to be willing to put in the work and things will get more difficult before they get easier. I have had to relearn how to do things without my mind being altered, and most days I wake up struggling to cope with the emotions and pain that I didn't previously allow myself to feel. But each day the regret and pain feel slightly less burdensome.
I'm so sorry that I cannot offer you more but know that my heart is with you and your family.

Q: What do you wish addicts knew or tried?
A: I think the most common thing people forget, addicts and loved ones alike, is that it's not going to be a straight line. But that's life in general. You might take steps backward but as long as the trend continues to skew from the bottom left to the top right of the graph, you're doing okay. If something doesn't work then you can alter courses. There is no one size fits all.

Q: How do you think it affected your family/friends?
A: I did not really have any friends and had disconnected myself from family during my addiction. I know I hurt some of them in doing so but I felt that it was protecting them from an even greater pain. In the end, I just prolonged how long the pain would last and made things worse for myself and in turn the relationship they wanted with me.

Q: What's your life like now?
A: Life now has just been about finding meaning in daily struggles. A good job is difficult for me to come by because I am a convicted felon, but I have managed alright for someone in that position. Plus it's less than a year now until my record is cleared.

Q: What has sobriety been like?
A: Sobriety has been the re-discovery of extracting joy from life. I had no happiness for far longer than I would like to admit. But if that trauma can help someone else, or be used as a toolkit somehow, it's no longer trauma. It has value and has gone full-circle.

Q: Is it a struggle to stay sober?
A: It hasn't really been for me. There have been struggles with falling back into the mindset I had while being addicted, that victim mentality; being ruled by the ego. But as far as actually doing the drug again, I do not have the desire to do so, save for a couple, brief fleeting instances.

Q: What helps you stay sober?
A: When I was first starting out, I found that setting very small goals and patterns to accomplish each day were invaluable to me. I would meditate for 5 minutes each morning, journal for another 5 minutes, make my bed, and make tea. So by the time I had started my day, I already felt like I was in the right direction.


Anonymous Woman, 31, Ex-Wife to an addict
My ex-husband did two tours in Iraq. The second tour he was injured and ended up having to have two knee surgeries. Before the surgeries and tours he was outgoing, always wanted to be around people and just have a good time. He used to do little things for me to show how much he loved and cared for me. For instance, send me flowers or just a little written love note, or write a note on the mirror for me to see before work.

After his tours, he was still kind of the same but I felt like he was backing off a little. I moved with him to Hawaii and he was still kind of the same but after about 6 months things started to change. He was blowing thru money and couldn't give me a reason as to why. I finally caught him outside our house buying pills from a known drug dealer on base. He finally came clean and told me where all the money was going.

I had witnessed him taking at least 5 tabs at once. I kept begging him to get help and got nowhere. He was about to get medically discharged from the army. I couldn't handle it anymore so I moved back home. He stayed in Hawaii for about another 2 months and told me he was getting help.

When he finally came home it went back to how it was in the beginning for only a couple of months before I figured out he relapsed. He wouldn't find a job I was working two jobs just to support us. He stole money and jewelry from my mother and sister. He even pawned his wedding ring. He tried telling me he lost it but when I came home one night from my second job I started a load of laundry and found a pawn receipt in his pants for his wedding ring and a gold necklace (which was ONE of the things he stole from my mother).

He was constantly lying, stealing, using, and cheating. His addiction ended our marriage. It broke me. That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I was 24 and was going to be divorced. I was embarrassed but I knew I had to do it.

I do know that after our divorce, he escalated and started doing meth and even overdosed on it at one point. It still scares me that he's going to end up dead or in jail but I know there is nothing I can do for him. I tried everything when we were married and nothing working. He is still lying to his friends and acquaintances about things like family deaths and needing money to make it to funeral services. It's sad.


Shelly Hough, 31, Recovering Addict
Q: When/why did you use opioids for the first time?
A: I was 15 years old when I used prescription pills for the first time. My friends at the time were doing it and I found some in my parent's room so I started taking theirs.

Q: What feeling did opioid use give you?
A: It was a feeling of euphoria that I chased for many years. I started to feel it less and less as the years went on. It started to just make me feel normal unless I took an unusually large amount that should have probably killed me.

Q: When did it become an addiction?
A: I believe it was in 2005 when I was 18 and had ankle surgery. At that time, I kept lying to my surgeon that the pills he gave me were making me sick, so he would give me different kinds. I ended up with 3-4 different prescriptions and took all of them.

Q: How did opioid addiction affect your life?
A: It took my heart and my soul. I overdosed multiple times and should not be alive today. It consumed my thoughts, my feelings, my relationships, and my money. I ended up in detox on my 21st birthday, county jail on my 22nd, prison on my 23rd, halfway house on my 24th, and my 26th in a drug rehab program.

Q: Did your family or friends try to help you?
A: Yes, but I would never let them get very far. I didn't want help from anyone. I lost all my friends and my family ended up not wanting me around anymore. I felt like I was a waste of space and had attempted suicide by drug overdose.

Q: What was your lowest moment while doing opioids?
A: At first, I thought it was going to prison for robbery in 2009 but when I got sent to the halfway house in 2010, I got back in my addiction. I felt like I had not gotten to the end of my rope because I still wanted to do those things. When I was released back home in 2011, I continued to live that lifestyle. It wasn't until my granny was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and I started stealing her pills that I knew I was really in the wrong. The months before I went to rehab, I was at a complete loss of how I could change my life. I was ready to end my life and had absolutely no hope for the future. I just knew that God had messed up when he made me.

Q: What made you want to get help?
A: When I had nowhere and no one to turn to, I knew I had to do something different with my life. It was either back to prison or death at that point.

Q: What did your rehabilitation look like?
A: I went to a faith-based inpatient program in Denver. I didn't understand what it meant until I got there. It was about Jesus morning, noon, and night. Once I had surrendered my life, I could finally start to understand why I was making the choices I made. I finally understood that I held so much unforgiveness in my heart for the man that sexually abused me when I was a child. He stole my innocence and I could never learn to cope with the feelings from it. I needed God's love in my heart to help me see clearly.

Q: Why was your treatment successful?
A: It was successful. I came to learn a lot about myself and now I can help others who have been through the same thing.

Q: Many people see addicts & think why don't they just stop?! Can you explain from an addict's view why it isn't that simple?
A: When you are consumed by something, you have to be broken of it. Only the love of God can break a demon like that. I was never strong enough to do it on my own. Even now I don't try to do anything on my own. I know that Shelly doesn't always make the right decisions so that's why I lean on those who have been clean longer than me and the wise counsel that God put in my life.

Q: What do you want others to know about addiction?
A: That you can't talk someone out of it until they want help. It's a sad cycle but there is hope. All I know is what helped me. People were praying for me since I was 8 years old after everyone found out about the abuse. It took me until I was 25 to feel those prayers. It doesn't go in vain. Keep the faith for your loved ones.

Q: What do you wish addicts knew or tried?
A: I'm biased. Try Jesus. He won't let you down.

Q: How do you think it affected your family/friends?
A: I hurt a lot of people for a lot of years. But now that my life has changed, that hurt and pain have been erased. We don't talk about my past anymore. It feels AWESOME that my sisters and my family want to be around me now.

Q: What's your life like now?
A: I have been in Denver since November 2012. I've been mentoring other young women and men who have struggled with the same issues. I'll graduate college next Spring with my business degree, general business certificate, full charge bookkeeping certificate, and managerial finance certificate. I'm on the board of directors at the rehab I graduated from. Life is good!

Q: What has sobriety been like?
A: I've definitely had my ups and downs but that's to be expected. All I need to do is not stay in my downs but pull myself out of the rut and keep moving forward. It feels good to think clearly and to make sound, moral decisions. I love that other people come to me for help and advice. It feels so good to be looked up to!

Q: Is it a struggle to stay sober?
A: Well, I would have to say no overall. Some days I'd like to just get high but I can talk myself out of it pretty easily. I look at my life now and know that I don't want to throw it away for a fleeting moment of pleasure.

Q: What helps you stay sober?
A: Helping other people. Being in church and Bible studies and around other people.

Q: Anything else you'd like to mention?
A: It's easy to lose hope and patience for someone in their addiction. It's important to not be an enabler but instead, use tough love. Don't feed their habit by supplying them with money or anything else. Whatever is going to happen will happen. There is nothing we can do to stop it until they want it to stop.

Anonymous Woman, 30, Sister of an addict
Q: Tell me about the person in your life who is an addict?
A: He is my brother.

Q: Do you know when they became an addict?
A: He has always dabbled in drugs since he was young. I wanna say before 16.

Q: What were they like before addiction?
A: He has always had to be the "cool guy" no matter what it took. Whether it was picking on someone or drinking or smoking pot which eventually turned into heavier drugs. I honestly don't even know what all he has done but I know this is what he went to rehab for.

Q: How has addiction changed them?
A: Addiction has changed him bc he lies all the time. He will steal prescription drugs out of your house/purse/where ever he knows they are. It doesn't matter who you are.

Q: What has addiction done to your relationship?
A: I don't trust him at all. I wouldn't trust him alone in my house or even if I'm here I can't trust he's not going through something. I can't trust him with my kids. Which sucks bc they love him so much.

Q: What had addiction done to your family as a whole?
A: He is definitely the black sheep of the family. He's not invited to anything (holidays, birthdays) I invite him to stuff but he never shows up bc he either drank or got high the night before.

Q: Have you tried to get the person help?
A: We have all tried to help him but he says he doesn't have a problem. Jail, rehab and even watching our dad die didn't help him.

Q: What is it like watching someone you love struggle with addiction?
A: It sucks seeing him struggle bc I know he has so much potential. All I want is for him to get clean and have a good life without having to struggle and not know where he's going to stay for the night or when he's going to eat. I just know he uses this to cover up his sadness.

Q: Have they been to rehab?
A: Yes, a few times

Q: What do you hope for them in the future?
A: Sometimes I just wish he would go to prison and have to get clean. All I want is for him to be happy

Q: Anything you'd like others to know about addiction &/or caring about someone with an addiction?
A: Addiction affects the whole family not just the one addicted. Once the trust is gone it's so hard to get it back. It's a sad sickness that I could not imagine for myself. I choose tough love bc he knows he can always come to me but I'm not always going to do what he wants/needs. A few things we have gone through..... him being drunk/high and beating the shit out of my mom, broke her arm. Leaving his kids with me and then home getting a call saying he tried to kill himself. Numerous car wrecks, fights, jail. Never knowing if we are going to get a call that he killed someone or himself. Not being able to trust anything that he says. He literally believes what he tells people. I don't even know if he realizes he is lying anymore. I hate that anyone has to deal with it. It's just really sad


Anonymous Man, 37, Recovering Addict
Q: When/why did you use opioids for the first time?
A: I first started using for elbow pain while I was pitching in baseball back in high school. Only when I pitched so I couldn't feel my arm. Fast forward about 6-7 years and started playing baseball again. Started taking again while I pitched. Wasn't really a problem for me.

Q: What feeling did opioid use give you?
A: Gave me a highish, numb feeling. Just kinda like everything felt nice. Nothing I was worried about mattered. Hell, nothing really mattered. Just put me on my own little cloud in my own little world.

Q: When did it become an addiction?
A: Sometime '07 or '08. Was dealing with a very poisonous relationship and hating where I was in my job. Started taking more and more to mask the pain and to shut out the world really.

Q: How did opioid addiction affect your life?
A: Basically I never really wanted to do anything. As soon as I would leave work, I'd start popping so it would hit me as soon as I got home. I kinda shut everything out. I definitely wore a mask. When I did go out or was around people, no one knew.

Q: Did your family or friends try to help you?
A: No one knew I was doing it. I didn't tell anyone.

Q: What was your lowest moment while doing opioids?
A: I got to a point where I didn't care anymore and didn't want any more pain. I came home, popped a lot more than I normally did, drank a bunch of vodka, and went to bed, not caring if I woke up or not.

Q: What made you want to get help?
A: That next morning I realized what I had done, and realized the severity of my problem. I drove over to Laureate and was going to check myself in. I sat in the parking lot, and cried and thought about my family. The funny thing was I never thought about the embarrassment on myself if my friends found out. All I could think about was my sisters and what they might have to go through if their friends found out. I didn't want them to have to deal with that. And what my mom and Dad were going to think of me. Honestly, in my mind, I didn't know if I'd be able to look them in the eyes.

Q: What did your rehabilitation look like?
A: I ended up never going in. I sat in the lot for about an hour just crying. I finally just left.

Q: Why was your treatment successful?
A: In my mind, I had a reason to stop.

Q: Many people see addicts & think why don't they just stop?! Can you explain from an addict's view why it isn't that simple?
A: I honestly feel it can be that simple but an addict has to want to stop. And has to have a reason to stop. For me, I had that reason. And I stopped. It was definitely difficult. I didn't take a pill for almost 6 years. Not even as little as a Tylenol. That's not to say that I didn't buy and flush several times. If I had a hangover or any type of pain, I just toughed it out. In my head, I had put myself in that situation so it was just something I was going to have to deal with. Now I can't say that it's easy. It's extremely difficult. Especially at the beginning. And I don't really think everyone can do it the way I did. But I honestly feel it has to be wanted.

Q: What do you want others to know about addiction?
A: It's a black hole. It almost just becomes something you do without even thinking about it. Like biting your nails or twirling your hair. You get to a pooling where you just reach for it without thinking about it. More like it reaches for you.

Q: What do you wish addicts knew or tried?
A: Things can definitely be and get better if you allow them to. I felt for the longest time this was the best it was gonna get. And I kept telling myself that. Once I got clean, I opened myself up to allow things to happen and didn't just shut out everything.

Q: How do you think it affected your family/friends?
A: They didn't know. I didn't tell my mom for almost 3 years. She took it pretty hard but made sure I knew she'd do anything for me if I needed help or went back. She understood my depression and wanted nothing more than to always be there for me. My dad and sister as far as I know still don't know unless my mom has told them.

Q: What's your life like now?
A: A lot better but I have to work at it. I do feel a lot of times that I'm being pushed down but as I've gotten older I've realized the way the world works and that there are more like me and I'm not alone with the way I think about things.

Q: Is it a struggle to stay sober?
A: Not really. I have relapsed a couple times. Once because I had so much pain in my biceps I just HAD to take something and didn't use again. Then a second time, just this last year actually, because I wanted to. My dad was battling cancer and I was taking it very hard. So I drank a bunch liquid hydro. And honestly, It wasn't the same as it was back when and didn't do it again. And I haven't thought about it again.

Q: What helps you stay sober?
A: Nowadays, my 3 nieces. I would hate them growing up knowing or finding out they have an addict for an uncle.

Q: Anything else you'd like to mention?
A: If you really want to quit, and don't think you can do it on your own, get help. Don't be embarrassed about it like I was. No one will fault you for wanting to get help.

Emily Pelletier, 28, Daughter of an addict
Q: Tell me about the person in your life who is an addict?
A: My mother, she is an alcoholic and a pill addict. Currently sober.

Q: Do you know when they became an addict?
A: I always thought it was because She had breast cancer when I was young. Her mastectomy surgery went really bad, she had 12 plus reconstructive surgeries in one year. Wasn't until recently that I found out she already struggled with the addiction prior but the pain meds and trauma post breast cancer. I guess that is just what made it worse.

Q: What were they like before addiction?
A: I didn't know her before addiction.

Q: How has addiction changed them?
A: I wouldn't know, because I didn't know her prior. I do think it has made her a better grandma and more present in her grandchildren's lives. I just see now how active she is in their lives, and I didn't get that.

Q: What has addiction done to your relationship?
A: Ahh that's a hard one. I was the youngest of 4. My mom left for treatment when I was probably in the 2nd grade. I, unfortunately, have no childhood memories of her. I was raised by my father and stepmother. So it's not a typical mother-daughter relationship. I love her and we talk a few times a week (I live far). But it's just different.

Q: What has addiction done to your family as a whole?
A: Each kid and or person was affected completely different I think. We all see our children in different ways. Some were affected more than others. Addiction broke my family apart and was the root of all of our family issues growing up. My mom had two children before meeting my dad when she went to rehab my dad adopted them. He raised all 4 of us two of which weren't his. He was the dad he didn't have to be.

Q: Have you tried to get the person help?
A: She received help many times. At this point, I believe she is 9 years sober.

Q: What is it like watching someone you love struggle with addiction?
A: It's hard, but I never really had to watch her struggle, or I just don't remember it or her growing up much. It's hard because you can't make them change, they have to make the change within themselves. So really no matter what you say or do, it's really up to them.

Q: Have they been to rehab?
A: Yes, many times.

Q: What state is the person in now?
A: Sober for 9 years goes to meetings regularly.

Q: What do you hope for them in the future?
A: That she continues to stay sober and help other women who are struggling with addiction.

Q: Anything you'd like others to know about addiction &/or caring about someone with an addiction? A: Addiction is a disease that doesn't go away. An addict is always an addict. You can't control or fix them, they have to do it themselves. There is also a fine line of helping and enabling an addict. You can love them without enabling them.

Becky Pelletier, Mother, Recovering Addict

I am really passionate about recovery from addiction. I am a therapist at a program called Women in Recovery in Tulsa, OK. I see the impact addiction has on women and their children every day. I have made it my life's work to help women overcome addiction so they can be the mother they have always wanted to be but couldn't because they suffer from addiction.

I am in recovery from opiate and alcohol addiction which inspired me to help other women. Addiction is not a choice although that is what it appears to be from an outside perspective. I like every woman, did not choose addiction over my children. If loving my children would have been enough to make me stop I wouldn't be sharing this right now. I love my children immensely but my addiction became stronger than love and ultimately took away everything I ever cared about. I lost my children, my marriage, my profession and my soul to addiction. I can say now I am recovering from addiction and will have 9 years continuous recovery on August 1, although I have been clean for 15 of the last 18 years. Recovery is a life time process.
I started drinking alcohol at a very young age to cope with living in an abusive family. I used it as an escape to numb my feelings although I didn't become an addict until many years later. I had a profession in the medical field, a wonderful husband and 4 beautiful children. We had a great life. In 1993, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the next 3 years I had approximately 15 surgeries due to multiple complications from cancer. I got addicted to painkillers. The pills not only numbed my physical pain but my emotional pain as well. I drank alcohol when I didn't have pills. Self-medicating with pills and alcohol became the solution my only coping skill. My husband tried to help me but he was not able to make me stop. My children begged me to stop but I couldn't and I didn't know how. I went to an inpatient substance abuse program in 1997 but it was too late to save my marriage. I was not safe so he divorced me and took custody of our children. I felt hopeless and like a failure so I started drinking shortly after completing the treatment program. I had lost everything and everyone I cared about. I started drinking daily to numb the pain to the point I could not practice my profession. My life had become a living hell with little hope. I was living to drink for the next 3 years. I entered a program in 2000 which saved my life. It was a treatment program for women just like me ran by women just like me but were living sober happy lives. I started mending the relationship with my children although they continued to live with their father. I was able to find meaning and a sense of who I was. I had failed at everything. I wasn't a wife or a mother and in my thoughts a woman because cancer took everything from me that identified me as a woman. I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous. I attended meetings got a sponsor and worked the 12 steps. I went to college and worked in treatment centers nights and weekends. I wanted to help other women recover. It gave me purpose and the ability to find myself and be the woman I had always wanted to be , the mother my children would be proud of.
I started working with women in prison. They all suffered from addiction and by the grace of god I was not in prison myself. That work led me to the job I have now. Women in Recovery is a program for women who suffer from addiction and are involved in the criminal justice system. These women face years of incarceration. Our program provides treatment for trauma because 75% of women with addiction and in prison have untreated trauma. We reunite them with their children provide education and employment services. We remove the barriers women have to allow them a successful path to recovery.
I have repaired the relationship with my children I am the woman and mother I always wanted to be. I continue to be active in Alcoholics Anonymous and have a spiritual connection with god which is essential to my recovery. I provide hope to other women who suffer from addiction by being an example and show them if I can do it you can to. I can help you and this is how you can recover too.

Michelle Vagin, 27, Sister of an addict
Q: Tell me about the person in your life who is an addict?
A: My older sister Lyza. We are seven years apart.

Q: Do you know when they became an addict?
A: I want to say she was about 14 years old. It started out slow - I don't think it was heavy drugs for a while.

Q: What were they like before addiction?
A: She was outgoing. We had a very close relationship when we were younger. She loved listening to music, drawing, meditating, and spending time with family.

Q: How has addiction changed them?
A: She is a completely different person. I don't know her anymore. Her life has completely turned around. She may remember me, but I think addiction has taken over her entire mind.

Q: What has addiction done to your relationship?
A: Sadly, we don't talk anymore. It has been really hard for myself but especially for my mom. It was mentally draining trying to convince her to get help. We'd reached a point where we had to cut her off completely. As horrible as it may sound we had to do what is best for us and look out for our well-being.

Q: What has addiction done to your family as a whole?
A: My twin sister Jessica and my mom have gotten closer. We have all come to an agreement that cutting her off is the best thing for us. Also, this may have reality set in for her to finally seek help.

Q: Have you tried to get the person help?
A: Countless times. I don't think I can count how many times we've done everything we could to help her. (Searching for her for hours, getting papers filled out at the courthouse for her to be picked up to be evaluated, and in the beginning, just reaching out every day to encourage her to get help)

Q: What is it like watching someone you love struggle with addiction?
A: It is the worst feeling ever. Especially a sister. Your moms first child. It's heartbreaking to see what it has done to her mentally. Her mind will never be at ease knowing that her daughter is not well. I've come to realize that I have done everything I could and I'm at the point where I need to be strong for my mom and twin sister.

Q: Have they been to rehab?
A: She chose to go to rehab on her own about six years ago. She was there for a month. Once she got out she signed up to be in an oxford house, got a job, a car, started attending meetings, and was really involved in working the steps. She was clean for five years. The best five years of my life - the whole family having a stronger connection and enjoying time together.
After the five year mark, she went completely downhill. I'm not sure what happened that made her go back to her old ways. Since then she has not had a desire to go to rehab. I hear "I don't have a problem" a lot.
Once that happened we were always trying to get her help. Calling rehab facilities, long-term treatment centers, and even TCBH to get it court ordered for her to go to rehab. We did all we could, but her being 33 there was nothing we could do unless she wanted to do it.

Q: What state is the person in now?
A: Great question... I don't know. Mentally I don't think she is there at all anymore. I think this round it is a lot worse.

Q: What do you hope for them in the future?
A: I pray every single day that she checks back into reality and decides she wants help. She wants a better life, she wants a relationship with her family, and can't prove to herself that she can overcome this battle of addiction. She has done it once and I know she has the strength, but
again she has to want to do it.

Q: Anything you'd like others to know about addiction &/or caring about someone with an addiction?
A: There is only so much you can do. You can not force the person to get help. They will one seek help/treatment when THEY are ready to. It's hard to accept that, but you will just wear yourself out every single day trying to push them to get help. In the end, they will only do what they want.

Christy Blanco, 28, Twin sister of an addict
Q: Tell me about the person in your life who is an addict?
A: My twin sister, Cindy.

Q: Do you know when they became an addict?
A: She was introduced to drugs around 12 years old from my dad. She started using heroine shortly after having her twin daughters. (Age 18)

Q: What were they like before addiction?
A: Spunky, artistic, musical, and adrenaline junkie.

Q: How has addiction changed them?
A: She is afraid of a lot. She lives her life in fear of every single person hating her. And she's sick every single day.

Q: What has addiction done to your relationship?
A: We aren't nearly as close. I've learned to put my walls up and have become numb. I still talk to her a lot but I hold a lot of resentment due to helping raise her girls and watching her choose drugs over family and help.

Q: What has addiction done to your family as a whole?
A: Most everyone is numb to her because of all of the lies.

Q: Have you tried to get the person help?
A: MANY times.

Q: What is it like watching someone you love struggle with addiction?
A: Being my twin, it hurt a lot to lose that connection and bond. It's still there but I've lost so much trust that it's hard to get myself into a more understanding viewpoint.

Q: Have they been to rehab?
A: 8 or 9 times.

Q: What do you hope for them in the future?
A: To move back home to Oklahoma to be with her daughters. To understand that you don't have to hide and lie if you are sober. Be honest and just help yourself.

Q: Anything you'd like others to know about addiction &/or caring about someone with an addiction? A: You'll hear it's a disease. But being someone who has smoked cigarettes for 10 years now, I can tell you it's a choice. I say I want to quit, but in all reality... I don't. I just worry about judgment from others, but now I can honestly just tell you I want my vice. It is a choice to become an addict. I know many people believe it's a disease, but I have seen my dad, my uncle, my twin sister, and many other family members CHOOSE drugs to run from reality. Yes, I have some compassion. I understand it's hard to deal with past demons or even present, but after battling my own... the healthy way, I've discovered self-worth and security through simple meditation and exercise. I watched my family fall from drugs and I will not let my daughter see her mother fall down the same path. Addiction is a tough subject. Another terrible part about is that companies like Addiction Hotline pursue addicts and push them into rehabs for insurance collections and then they have flop houses across the street with dealers who pretty much keep them in rehab for relapsing. Every single rehab my sister went to had trap houses across the street selling drugs to people outside of the rehab or their sober living quarters.


Cherise Rahn, 37, Recovering Addict


I had taken opioids before after surgeries and dental work and never gave them a second thought really. I liked the feeling they gave me but it never occurred to me that people abuse them at that time.
I was 27 years old and a friend gave me one while at her house one day for some anxious feelings I was having and it shocked me that she just had a bottle hanging out in her purse at all times. Something was different that day when I took it. I guess maybe because I wasn't taking it for pain it seemed to make all my problems fade away.
I would say it became an addiction that day and continued to grow. My boyfriend at the time and now husband had already been taking them for a couple of years off and on at that point but I didn't know that yet or to what extent he was addicted. No one in our circle of friends or family tried to help us because they were contributing. We were soon buying pills from both our moms to supplement our own prescriptions. We were spending upwards of $2,000 a month on our addiction sometimes. The lowest moment for me was 8 years later when my husband looked at me and told me I was his problem and part of the reason he was still an addict and he was leaving me. I knew that wasn't true but I also knew I had to do something drastic to prove to him that I wasn't the problem or I was going to lose him. I went to rehab for 30 days 2 days after he told me that. He agreed to stand by my side while I went and he did but he continued to use. I gave 110% to my program and I am 2 years sober.
People do think you can "just stop" It isn't that simple. Your entire way of thinking has been damaged by addiction. Depending on your drug of choice your body also becomes addicted and soon you need the drugs just to function properly and it isn't about getting high. I want people to understand that addiction is a disease and I do not believe it's necessarily one you're born with but much like someone's choices can cause them to develop diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, etc., you can create the disease of addiction as well and it requires treatment to be well. I wouldn't say it had a large impact on my social circle. It was a well kept secret for us. I have cut ties with my mother and mother-in-law because they are both still very sick addicts themselves. My husband went to rehab 35 days after I got home and was clean for 2 years then had a relapse. It nearly destroyed me and i was ready to leave him but I had to remind myself that his choices aren't about me and I took a vow for better or worse and I chose to honor that and walk through this with him and love him unconditionally! Sobriety hasn't been difficult for me. I continue to attend NA meetings and I stick to the program and would never want to go back to that life of lying, hiding things, constantly searching for pills and worrying about having enough. Blowing money on them and just the vicious cycle it creates. I still see a counselor for it once a month. Attend weekly meetings and meditate.

Lisa Blunt Johnson, Ex-wife of an addict
Q: Tell me about the person in your life who was an addict.
A: My ex-husband, Anthony, was/is an addict to any type of pill he can get his hands on. He and I have three children together and have been divorced for over 15 years.

Q: Do you know when they became an addict?
A: Yes. He and I were in a car accident October 1998. He never wore his seatbelt and as a result, his head hit the windshield and top of the car. He had terrible headaches after that. The doctor overseeing his medical care was actually Anthony's dad's best friend, Dr. Jeff Martin.

I realized in June 1999 that Anthony was addicted to pain medication. We had money missing. He was lying. His behavior was erratic. Stories didn't add up.

After investigating (because living with a drug addict, you become an investigator… and actually, Anthony calls me "detective" to this day because I would research and search until I found answers), Jeff Martin had called in a one-month supply of hydrocodone to 7 different pharmacies including Drug Warehouse and Walgreens. In the late '90s, pharmacies' computer systems within the same organization were not synced so they had no idea he was getting seven one-month prescriptions each month. Additionally, Anthony didn't file insurance on these pills, so no insurance carrier could flag the pharmacist that there was a problem by denying the claim of a prescription due to filling it too soon.

Q: What were they like before addiction?
A: Anthony was fun. He laughed a lot. He was easy-going and very calm. He had the best memory out of anyone I've ever met. He could tell you the score of any Dallas Cowboys football game from the 80's to the present and could even talk about plays in any specific game. He attended family events and engaged with family members. He was confident. He took care of himself and looked healthy. He was a great dad. He was a great son. And he was trying to figure out how to be a great husband. We were young – 20 and 21 when we first started our relationship and married a little over a year later.

Q: How has addiction changed them?
A: Anthony spent not only the money he made for our family on pain medication, but also some of what I made for our family. He took money out of our budget for household bills to pay for his addiction. Not only did he obtain 7 one-month prescriptions from pharmacies every month, he also started buying pills off the streets from dealers. Back in 2000, the going rate was $7 for each hydrocodone pill. I know this because a dealer left a message on my answering machine. (Yes, answering machine. LOL)

Anthony blamed everyone for his addiction. He blamed his mom for how she raised him. He blamed me because he said I was such a bitch to live with. He had zero accountability for his actions and owned absolutely none of them.

He would regularly talk with slurred speech and eyes half closed all the while denying he was on anything.

Q: How has that addiction changed you?
A: I became a co-dependent. I didn't know what that meant until I went to ALANON in a moment of sheer hopelessness. ALANON saved my sanity.

My goal every day was to keep tabs on where Anthony was, what he was doing, and to determine if he was taking pills. I searched for pills regularly because he was always high; I knew there were pills to be found. I searched his car – under the seat, in the glovebox, behind the glovebox (because yes, there is space back there), between the seats, in the trunk, in the console. I searched between the mattress and box springs. I searched the couch cushions. I searched under the couch. I searched the kitchen cabinets. I searched his dresser drawers. I searched his laundry hamper. I became obsessed with his pill addiction.

I lied about where he was to my family at family gatherings, making excuses for his absences. He stopped attending because he was either so high or so sick from his high that he didn't want to go and I didn't want him to go because I didn't want my family to know about our problems.

I spent extra time cleaning the house and cooking meals because maybe if I made our home a better home and cooked delicious meals, he would see how fortunate he was that he had a great home life and would straighten up and stop using.

He didn't stop. I was miserable. I was hopeless. I felt rejected. I started seeing myself through his eyes rather than through even my own eyes or through the eyes of those who loved me – like my mom and dad.

Q: What has addiction done to your relationship?
A: We ended up hating each other. He hated that I was a nag. I hated that I was a nag because of his addiction.

He ended up cheating on me which I considered a blessing because I then, biblically, could leave our marriage. And I did.

Q: What has addiction done to your family as a whole?
A: My poor children. They are 19, 17 (18 in three weeks), and 15 (16 next week). They have a dad (Anthony) who continuously makes promises and doesn't keep them. He showed up at their school high in May 2017. They were humiliated. The principals had to ask Anthony to leave twice and threaten to call the police before he finally left. In a small town, the entire school knew within 30 minutes. They called asking to come home; they couldn't face people there the rest of the day.

Alayna, my 17-year-old, received a text a few days ago that said horrible things to her as a result of Anthony being high. The texts stated, "Doesn't matter how much of myself that I invest. Everyone STILL sees me as the lowlife druggy and u can't have that. That's a deal breaker so u can get on with your life without me because all I am is a sponge… Best of luck to u… Now go cry to momma and Gregg how bad I am…"

Ashlyn, my 19-year-old, received a text yesterday stating, "You are clueless and classless… Get a fucking clue."

My 15-year-old son, Aiden, won't even talk to Anthony. He doesn't want to talk to him or see him.

I asked Alayna about this: Aiden said he got depressed. Alayna and Aiden said, "We feel unwanted. We feel like we're not enough. We feel like he cheats on us with drugs." That's exactly how I felt as a wife – the drugs were his mistress.

Q: Have you tried to get the person help?
A: Yes. In 2001, I called Dr. Jeff Martin and told him to stop prescribing drugs. I contacted attorneys, none of which would take on any part of this case. I contacted the Pharmacy Board of Oklahoma to report Jeff Martin. I signed to be the guarantor for Anthony's rehab at Valley Hope in Cushing, an inpatient rehab facility.

Q: What is it like watching someone you love struggle with addiction?
A: It's absolutely horrible. It's total chaos. Life feels out of control. It's a nightmare.

Q: Have they been to rehab?
A: Yes, he went to Valley Hope in Cushing, OK. He relapsed less than three weeks after being discharged.

Q: What state is the person in now?
A: He is still on drugs. He takes methadone he obtains from a drug court facility in Tulsa but continues to use pills he gets on the street.

Q: What do you hope for them in the future?
A: I would love for him to have peace. Only then can he get clean. My kids deserve a dad who is free of addiction. They deserve a healthy relationship with their dad.

Q: Anything you'd like others to know about addiction and/or caring about someone with an addiction?
A: It's not your fault. There is nothing you can say or do to help the addict get clean. Take care of you; don't spend every day trying to figure out what the addict is doing. It's ok to create and enforce boundaries, even if that means distancing yourself from that person. YOU are worth more.

Lisa also has a book that details her experience living with an addict and the aftermath - Ashlyn's Story https://www.amazon.com/Ashlyns-Story-Journey-Perseverance-Forgiveness/dp/0692730893


Marsha Marie Blunt, Mother of an addict

My oldest daughter, who is now 26 (27 in September), is an addict. She will do anything except heroine, but she does the following and the list just names a few...ecstasy, painkillers, medication for adhd, but her favorite is meth then drinking whiskey while coming down. I didn't know when she started using, she's always been a troubled person and suffers from bipolar disorder. During high school we sent her to a 30 day camp for troubled teens. When she came home she had the option to go back to school or get her GED. She didn't want to do either, she decided to go to job corp. Unfortunately, she had her dad's side of the family who felt bad for her for the next 10 years. They paid for multiple cars, housing, bills, etc. All she did was take advantage of them. She gave both of her daughters to different family members, I have one. She says she hits rock bottom, goes into rehab for a couple of days and leaves. She refuses to put more into the rehab. She says she can quit on her own. Her siblings are beyond pissed off at her, the family she took advantage of love her dearly, but are so tired of lies and deceit that they keep their distant. The only time I have any contact is if she's clean and/or she's walking down the highway in the middle of the night. We never really know what is truth with her. We all want her clean and want the the best for her, but some days, well, we wish she'd get arrested or have to be admitted and not be able to walk out. Her babies don't talk to her or see her. They don't even ask about her anymore. It's all very heartbreaking.

She has moved out of town and I asked her how she is able to find people who use when she doesn't know anyone. She says she can tell by looking at people if she can score or not.
I mentioned to her (multiple times) how deadly drugs can be, her response "only if I get a bad batch." Referring to meth. She doesn't seem to understand the concept like the rest of us...the bad batch...yep, she'll be dead, but she won't know it was bad, she'll be freaking dead!
She has gone "missing" and I reported her missing with the police. She hadn't been on Facebook in days, hadn't spoken to anyone (before she gave up the kids) and my mom had flyers for us to put up.

She apparently had been watching all this unfold on Facebook from someone else's account. I had multiple anxiety attacks during this "missing" time. I won't allow her to do that to me again.

She was dating a guy, when she still had Destiny, who was moving the drugs. He would steal some to take it home. I asked her if she had any idea what could've happened if he got caught! They could have all been dead...including Destiny!

Danika is my oldest granddaughter, Destiny's older sister. Danika is 6 now and Destiny is 3. Danika moved in with Kristen's Aunt, Valerie, 2 years ago. Destiny went to Kristen's great aunts at that time, went back to Kristen, then to her dad, back and forth until Kristen asked me to take her. Valerie didn't do anything with the courts until last year. I did immediately. Either Kristen and/or Nathan have court ordered requirements before they'll get either child back. At this point they go months without talking to them, let alone seeing them.Both Danika and Destiny within a year of each other talked about mommy and daddy fighting. Daddy hits mommy, she bleeds and cries. Danika went to counseling and now Destiny is.
Destiny didn't talk when she first started living with me, it's been almost a year now. Today, she talks nonstop. She was obviously just completely neglected. Last year, she would eat with both hands and a fork, shoveling food in her mouth like she would never eat again. Because they didn't have anything. And don't get me started on their living conditions.

Camden Flowers Murray, Recovering Addict
Q: When/why did I use opioids for the first time?
A: I first used opiates illegally at age 12 but I broke my collarbone at age 11 and was prescribed hydrocodone when I took the prescribed hydrocodone I instantly loved the feeling. Then at age 12, I went on vacation to my aunt & uncles and while I was there I asked them about pills. (I knew they took pills so I wasn't scared to ask them) they offered me OxyContin 80mg. After I asked them about this and let them know I was interested in taking them they told me they would rather me try them with them and be "safe" rather than get them off the streets unfortunately from that time I was hooked.

Q: What feeling did opioid use give you?
A: They made me feel normal, they made me feel numb. They made me function like a "regular" person and made me have much more confidence.

Q: When did it become an addiction?
A: I was hooked after taking the OxyContin at age 12.

Q: How did opioid addiction affect my life?
A: I lost everything which includes numerous homes, cars, jobs, marriage, both children, my family, self-respect and all my morals

Q: Did your family or friends try to help you?
A: Yes, see testimony below.

Q: What was your lowest moment while doing opioids?
A: A few moments come to mind; one is when I was under the influence of opiates and got raped and became pregnant. Two being the last few months prior to going inpatient.

Q: What made you want to get help?
A: See testimony below.

Q: What did your rehabilitation look like?
A: Well my first clean date 12/10/10 I got clean from meth- but not opiates. I went to celebrate recovery and also lived in sober living in an Oxford home. It works for a while then I fell off the wagon again. I never could stop using the pills. Then finally when I began to get clean this last time- I had to change everything- people, places, things I did, job, House, hobbies everything. I went inpatient in 2016 and as soon as I came home got into meetings and outpatient and am still currently in outpatient. I have had to dedicate my life to my recovery. I attend Celebrate Recovery- every week! I don't allow myself to miss. I sought counseling, I go to classes. I speak at high schools. I have had to literally dedicate my entire life to stay clean

Q: Was treatment successful?
A: Yes, the second time when I was 100% ready, yes it was.

Q: Many people see addicts & think why don't they just stop?! Can you explain from an addict's view why it isn't that simple?
A: An addict can't just stop, it takes a seriously strong person to actually get clean and stop. It takes medical attention and it takes a lot of drive from within yourself.
You have to be mentally and physically tired of the lifestyle and ready to change every single thing in your life.

Q: What do you want others to know about addiction?
A: See testimony below.

Q: What do you wish addicts knew or tried?
A: I wish they knew they aren't alone. That it's possible to change, that you can do this you just have to want it.

Q: How do you think it affected your family/friends?
A: See testimony below.

Q: What's your life like now?
A: See testimony below.

Q: What has sobriety been like?
A: See testimony below.

Q: Is it a struggle to stay sober?
A: Some days are extremely hard. But with the amazing people God's placed in my life. I feel confident in my recovery.

Q: Anything else you'd like to mention?
A: See testimony below.

Hello, I am a grateful believer of Jesus Christ, who celebrates recovery from a thirteen-year drug addiction, sex addiction, domestic violence, rape, self-harm, self-hate, depression, and isolation. My name is Camden Flowers Murray.

I was born in Claremore, Oklahoma to Angelia Flowers & Jake Williams. My parents were madly in love and they got pregnant with me on purpose, they were both still in school. In their minds I was the perfect solution to a reason to be able to move out on their own and escape their own realities. Growing up I was the first grandbaby to every one of my grandparents, so I was nothing short of spoiled. I was born into a very large family. By age two, I was a big sister to Jake. Jake and I attended school with my parents at Alternative Learning. On top of still being students my mother worked two jobs to help pay bills and my father worked but was injured on the job. My mother and father fought often, it was a love-sick relationship and my brother, and I were in the middle. My mother often took us to hiding places such as the "safe house's closet." My father had mental abuse issues along with physical abuse problems. I witnessed this often. Sadly, they just couldn't work things out. So, by age three my mother finally worked up enough courage to divorce my father, which wasn't at all what my dad wanted. He refused to live without my mother and often attempted suicide to prove that he would die without her.
On January 4th, 1995 My aunt had dropped my brother and I off to visit my dad and suspected something was wrong she returned to my mother and explained to my mom that something was different, my dad never came out when she dropped us off. My mother insisted she drive back over there and by this time it was to late, my Papa Orion had busted the door down to the bathroom and my father had committed suicide, he was lifeless. My mother and Aunt removed us from the home and they took us to my grandparents and handled the business that needed to be tended to. This is where I first felt a sense of abandonment and when I first truly heard about "Jesus." I was told that my father was gone visiting Jesus, and I was always so confused as to whom Jesus was and why my father wasn't returning. Of course, I was so young my mother was only trying to protect me from hurting but, it left me simply confused.

At age six, my mother met my Step Father Ben who took my brother and I in instantly. He was incredible along with his family. As I got older I began to have hate in my heart and curiosity as to why? Why did this happen, where is my dad, why is this new man coming into my life? Often, I was with my grandparents as they were my safe place, they are who I enjoyed being around. Of course, my parents were young still, they had parties often. I was exposed to a very explicit lifestyle at a young age. I felt as if life was a competition and I begged for attention, by this time my parents had Easton whom is my second youngest brother and I spent a lot of my time grounded so while I was grounded I would often play school and teach my baby brother. I often would leave my step-father hateful notes wishing death upon him, hoping he'd get killed on his way to work. He never said a word about them to me, he would come home from work and love me like I never said anything. I was so confused.

I was very depressed by age twelve, this is when I went on a vacation to visit my aunt and uncle, I don't know what made me feel comfortable enough to ask them this, but I did, I asked them how pills would make me feel. I explained to them how I just wanted to feel normal, how depressed I was and how I hurt. I knew that I couldn't drink because I had witnessed how drunks acted and I knew that I couldn't get away with drinking, so I knew I had to find a vice that I could hide. They responded with we have something that should help me with that, my aunts husband owned his own practice and was a doctor. This was when I was first introduced to oxycotin. My aunt crushed up a line and told me that it was in my blood to have a "high tolerance." That day they had me snort half of an 80mg pill and I instantly threw my guts up, I was so sick. I think they probably thought if they give me too much and make me sick I'd never want to do it again, but quickly after I asked for more, this time doing a quarter of the pill. I was instantly hooked, I felt normal. I was numb. This is when she praised me on how I was a pro, I felt a sense of worth and like I was good at something. This was when I was also introduced to Meth, which I became addicted instantly as well. When leaving there I knew I had only a few pills they had sent with me, so it was going to be a whole new world coming home and having to feed my habit on my own.
Upon coming home, I began robbing my family members medications. By age thirteen I was manipulating every person in my life, but they had not a clue, my parents were very unknowledgeable about this kind of lifestyle. Nobody expected me to act like this, honestly now that I look back I had a great child hood. I was very well cared for and loved. I was just resentful and hurt.

The only place that I could go was church because my parents didn't trust me, I had gone to 180 and met my first real boyfriend. This was when I truly began to sneak around, sneak this boy over and when I began realizing I had something men wanted. This is when I realized I could use my body to feed my habit. The boyfriend at the time only smoked weed and so I tried that but quickly realized that was not my cup of tea, so I began browsing for new men on social media. Quickly finding a new one, he was much older than me and had everything I wanted money, nice cars, and drugs. In my head how could it get anymore perfect, he trusted me. He built me up in such a way I felt important and he fed my habit along with sending me to high school with numerous pills to sale then I would return to him he would get what he wanted from me and take the money and send me back with more. I quickly became the person whom was feeding others habit without even realizing this older man knew what he was doing, I was pretty much a slave to this pimp. It was easy to get away with because truly I didn't appear to be this "kind of person." I quickly was even banned from attending church.

Shortly after dating this guy I met another man whom I fell in love with, he didn't do drugs he had a good job and was even allowed around my family. This man is now the father of my first child, Eric. In the beginning of our relationship things were perfect, I hid my drug addiction because he wasn't a user, at this time. I began to think maybe I was able to live life and be happy without using. Eric was very good to me, he filled the whole in my heart. He loved me and comforted me, but he traveled so when he was gone I would tend back to my own lifestyle trying to live a double life which sooner than later would be exposed, and he would catch on. By this time, it was too late Eric had began using with me, it was very easy for us to get what we wanted because he had a very good job and made a lot of money. Soon after we began using together both of our true colors began to show. With a lot of money comes a lot of drugs, this is when meth entered my life more frequently. Eric was cheating, I was acting crazy trying to keep up with school, a relationship etc. It was chaos.
By this time my parents and grandparents didn't know where they had gone wrong, they were questioning why, and I was making every excuse I could. My mother often sent me to stay with my grandparents when I would get into trouble because she had no clue how to handle me. My mother was happy I had Eric because he genuinely cared for me. By my Jr & Sr years of high school I had dreams despite my addiction I dreamed of becoming a platform artist in Cosmetology and travel with Eric. I was accepted into Vo-Tec. My Junior year in high school we got our first house together, this caused us nothing but more troubles in our addictions. I was so far gone under the influence of opiates, meth and my newest love ecstasy. It was at this time also, when I first shot up. My life was nothing short of a nightmare.

It was around this time as well that I met a new group of guys that comforted me when Eric was gone working. They knew I was weak to men and drugs and quickly took advantage of the situation. They sat me up a group of them took me to this party and told me it was time for bed because I was getting out of line and before I could get away I was being raped by not only one man but by three. This tore me up, made me feel worthless, nasty and most of all violated. Shortly after this I was at a party with Eric and he was wanting to go his own way and I didn't want him to, so I decided I couldn't do this anymore. I cut myself with a huge butcher knife, Eric insisted on taking me back to my moms because I had gone crazy. On our way home, we were doing our usual fighting one another throwing punches and dodging punches. We got to the turn by my mother's house and I lost it completely. I told Eric I couldn't go in front of my parents the way I was. I was under the influence of numerous drugs. He refused to turn around, so it was at this moment where my life would forever change. I opened Eric's truck door and I told him I was going to jump if he didn't turn around. He kept to his word and said he wasn't turning around. So, I jumped, I will never forget that fall. As my body skid across the pavement I prayed for the first time for God to protect me. Eric put the truck in park and jumped out to come to my rescue and put me back in the truck and took me to my mom. From there my mother met up with my Nanaw Frank and they rushed me to Tulsa to the Emergency Room. When arriving at the hospital they began questioning me, running test, and preparing for what was next. Of course, upon questioning, they asked if I could be pregnant, my answer along with my Mother's was more than just "NO." That moment changed my life, that pregnancy test came back positive. I almost passed out. I remember telling the nurse I can not be pregnant I am under the influence of so many drugs. A lady in a suit came in and spoke with me and told me I had two choices either I get into an out patient program for my addiction or the moment I gave birth I would lose my child. This whole night was like a nightmare. I agreed to get the help that was required and began preparing to be a mother.

Thankfully treatment was helpful, and I was able to stay clean throughout my pregnancy. While pregnant I turned 18 and Eric and I ran off and got married. In our minds we thought this would bring our families together, that it was eliminate the physical, mental and emotional abuse we caused one another. Unfortunately, this was not the case, I was still living the lifestyle with my soon to be husband and all our friends whom still were using heavily. I gave birth to Jerzei and she was the saving grace in my life but exposing myself to the same lifestyle and friends I quickly fell back into the same old choices. By the time Jerzei was one, Rogers County Sheriff's department showed up at my door and this was the day I began a custody battle from hell. Not only did this cause me more depression but my addiction spiraled more out of control for around three months.

Around November of 2010 is when I was introduced to Rhonda Bear and celebrate recovery. On December 4, 2010 I got clean from drugs. I made Celebrate Recovery a priority for a while, even though the beginning when I relapsed through trying to find myself. I tried to find "God" and heal but I was still allowing the old people, places and things in my life and didn't think I was the problem I placed blame upon everyone else. I quickly relapsed again on pills, I tried to tell myself if they were prescribed to me then they were okay. So, I would conflict pain, injuries, accidents upon myself. I was in a deep dark place. I began working in the clubs and again using my body to make money and feed my habits. I found myself clueless on how to get out of this cycle. I wanted out but didn't want to lose the world all at the same time. Man, after man, relationship after relationship it was exhausting. My life went up hill and downhill for many years. I ended up getting pregnant again during a very dark time in my life, this time not even remembering my days and nights and not having a clue whom the father was. The men in my life knew when I was under the influence they could do whatever they wanted to me and I wouldn't cause fuss the next day over emotions because I would simply not care or not remember. I was easy to use and that is exactly what this man done to me. He drugged me, got me drunk, pretty much raped me and left me and denied it happening when I ended up pregnant.

During my pregnancy, I struggled to stay clean. Finally by the end, I was able to live without the pills and I gave birth to a healthy little boy named Rhett. He was my pride and joy and I didn't even think about him missing a father because my Papa Mike stepped up and helped me raise him and played the father role. My grandfather bought us a beautiful home out in the country and life was great. Shortly after moving into this home I had a leg injury which meant I got pills so this began that whole cycle over, but life was still going better than it ever had. My family knew I was using pills along with diet pills but honestly didn't know what to do because they were prescribed.

I was working for a medical spa/ weigh clinic at this time which only fed my addiction to diet pills. Around August I was arrested for attempting to obtain CDS by fraud or forgery. I refilled a script to my diet pills and they couldn't confirm the script, so they arrested me. Thankfully, my papa hired me an attorney and it all got handled with the agreement of me seeking help. But I blew it off and went on with life, I meet a new guy, coaching softball for my daughter, being the home room mom, to unfortunately making the same choices once I was comfortable in my lifestyle. I had allowed myself to try to help the guy I was dating in his recovery, get clean. Which wasn't smart. He struggled with Meth and opiates just like me, I thought I could save him but, I only drug myself down with him. The cycle started back up, I thought that I could use meth just one time. Remember I had been clean from meth at this time for six years, but that one time turned into a couple times a week then quickly turned into I needed it to live. I took advantage of my Papa in everyway possible, he begged me to please get help, but I refused. I was now not only a slave to opiates, but meth and men again. Meeting a whole new group of people through the guy I was dating. That relationship quickly ended and another one started. This guy was married with children, and he would come to my rescue daily. I fell in love with him. It was so easy to manipulate him because he couldn't act like he was faithful being that he was married. I used my body and used sex to get me everything I wanted or needed.

This was for sure my all time low, I was trying so hard to portray that I had it all together lying, cheating, stealing and not being the mother I should have been. I knew in my heart I was beyond my own help of getting clean, but I was terrified. I did not want to admit I needed help. I didn't want to lose my kids again. But I did, July of 2016 my life made a turn for the worse I thought at the time but know now it was for the better. I was busted by my ex-husband Eric. He caught onto my games and my family pretty much had an intervention. I denied using, I wanted to die. Soon after this day, I lost my children again. It was at this time I admitted I needed help and began looking for somewhere to go.

Rehab after rehab I couldn't find anywhere. I went to detox at hillcrest and that was for 72 hours but after that they released me to go home with my mother. After a couple weeks of looking my Step Father and Papa Mike had me on a plane to California, which was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I will never forget the tears I watched my baby girl shed. It was terrifying getting onto that plane, I had never been away from my family. While in rehab I knew I had nothing to lose and I had to give this my all and that is what I done. It was one of the best experiences I ever had, I finally got counseling which I've needed for a very long time I got to speak to professionals about things I have held in for so long. I will never forget the words that woman spoke to me, here is one thing she told me "You are not what you have done, you are what you do with what you have done. Use your hurts to help others." She said remember where that last run left you? Never forget that because if you ever go back don't think for one second that you won't pick up right where you left off." She was so right, I took everything I learned from rehab and applied it to my life during that time. Yet, still in the back of my mind I knew I couldn't do this life clean. What about the friends I would be leaving behind? All these questions crossed my mind. I came home and was so scared because I had nobody but my Papa Mike and Nanaw Frank but they both were the first to call me out when I was using, I didn't ever get along with my mother and that was who I was going to stay with because that what was "best" and that is where my son was. I did good for three days, I went to court over my son and after court I left my moms and went out to my house to take care of some business. Sadly, that business what meeting up with the three guys I left behind I had a system set up and I relapsed for the last time. It was at this time that I knew I was truly out of control. This went on for three days straight and by the third day, I ended up stranded left behind and my friend Justin came to pick me up took me to his house and told me I was going home to get my life together. He was always the friend who scolded me, and I would actually listen, I knew I had to change everything and started with getting back into celebrate recovery. So that next day, I had to figure out a place to live because I was not welcome at my mother's now because I had relapsed again, my Papa's house was always open but it broke my heart I let him down, so I stayed with Inez whom helped me get clean. She was amazing in helping me through my withdrawals and emotional breakdowns. At this time, I had nothing more to lose- I lost everything. My home, my car, my job, both children, hope, and all self respect so I thought why not?

Deuteronomy 2:3 You have circled this mountain long enough; now turn north.
August 5, 2016 I walked away from the drug addiction and faced it with God on my side. I got help, I signed into out patient programs, began Celebrate Recovery and started to work on myself. My mother even attended Celebrate Recovery with me for my first meeting which made me so happy. From this day forward, small victories began to happen. Such as I got into an awesome out patient program which provided me with counseling, classes, and mental health assessments and help. I had to make small goals for myself and one of them was to never be comfortable in my recovery, never make excuses to not attend celebrate recovery and get to know God. I knew I loved to help others so instead of helping my old drug friends, I decided to begin sharing my journey with others. This has truly been what has helped me a lot, spreading hope to others is one of the most rewarding things I done. After a few months of doing good I was reunited with my children, I was given the opportunity to prove myself and I have ran with it and when the thought of looking back comes to mind I stop myself and reach out.

I am so grateful for Celebrate Recovery not only has it been the vessel to God for me but CR has been my happy place, where I truly look forward to going. I signed up for the first twelve step that was open after getting clean, going into these twelve steps I was so confused, lost, hopeless, broken, and felt as if life couldn't ever get better.

I was so blessed to have Danyelle Greer as my leader she has been an angel sent from God to me. She showed me a prime example of what it was like to be a child of God in church and out. She helped me change my life. The first twelve step I completed taught me how to deal with my addiction, it taught me that I don't have to be qualified to be a child of God, it taught me to have HOPE. Working through my steps I also learned to love myself and have respect for myself which I now take pride in. I do not use my body to get me what I want, and I truly love like Jesus.

I had an interest in leading at Celebrate Recovery by this point which has truly helped me stay accountable and reliable. One month after graduating my first twelve step I signed up to lead one, which I am proud to say that we just completed Sunday. Going through this program has prepared me for whatever I face and showed me that I am not alone. It has taught me that when the devil attacks that I must stand strong in my faith and reach out and believe that God will carry me through what ever I may face. Because I gave my life to Jesus and trusted in his will I now have both of my children back, I have a job that is a safe environment for me and that I truly love, I have my family back, I have gained trust with my parents that I never knew existed, as well as my grandparents. I have been able to make amends to every single person in my life and truly show that I am sorry and that I am truly trying to be a better me.

I have gotten to build relationships with my family that I never dreamt of. I am a mother whom takes pride in taking care of my children, who knows I don't have to buy my children's love, I am a mother whom my children can truly look up to. Life has been wonderful, yes everyday isn't perfect but because I have a heavenly father now I feel like nothing could ever make me question my faith. If I could tell a newcomer one thing it would be this don't feel like your alone, go to small group and make friends, get phone numbers and sign up to start a 12 step. Don't loose hope, pray about everything big or small, good or bad, pray & Trust in the Lord.

I currently am planning to start school in the fall and I plan to move into my own home and within the next couple of weeks I will get my license back which I have been praying about for two years now! Trust the Lords timing because its perfect.

Life has been a roller coaster and honestly, I always told myself I didn't know how I would deal with deaths of my grandparents because they have been my rocks, but I am living proof that God can work miracles and can hold you accountable for making good choices during hard times. With the loss of my Papa Mike I have dug my feet deeper in my faith and I have trusted in the Lord to get me through. This tragedy has been proof to me that God places all the right people in your life that you need, he equips us for battles and celebrations. So never loose your faith and always have hope even when the situation feels as if there is no reason to have hope. I am proud to say that I am a survivor of the devils attacks and that nothing can break me with the Lord on my side.

Brittany Evins, 28, Recovering Addict


First of all, I grew up in a good home, no one in my family uses. I was I guess you could say sheltered. I honestly knew nothing of drugs until I was an adult. Anyway, I met my ex-husband in 2007. I worked a ton of hours so I didn't notice he had a problem until it was too late.

He told me he'd go have a few drinks while waiting for me to get off work and I believed him. A friend of his got mad at him and told me was using pain pills. I didn't believe it at first so I didn't address the situation. I ended up finding out I was pregnant, and he came clean. He promised he would stop and he tried. Multiple times. It was the worst thing I've ever seen. He would throw up and go to the bathroom constantly, sweat and freeze at the same time, joints cramping so bad he couldn't sit still, going days without sleeping. He never made it for more than a week and I didn't get it. He was almost through the worst part and he just wouldn't stop! He talked me into having an abortion, I already had a child that the dad didn't have much to do with plus this man on drugs. My family hated him so I felt I had no other option, everything was too much.

The abortion was my first taste of opioids. I hated myself and I hated him. I have a beautiful perfect son, and I chose to end the life of another. The pills took my pain away and for a brief moment, I didn't hate myself. The pain was numb everything was numb. I took those til they ran out and went to a psych doctor that gave me Xanax, that blocked even my memory of why I needed something to function, to begin with. I ended up breaking my arm cause I was so messed up on Xanax and in the emergency room they gave me oxycotton. It was heaven and hell at the same time. The world would disappear, all of my problems gone. Along with reality.

I can't tell you exactly when I became addicted, but it took me 5 years and a whole lot of dark roads to realize I had a problem. In my eyes, everyone else had the problem and if they'd leave me alone I'd be fine. I lost my son, my home, my car, countless jobs. And never once did I stop to think about what I was doing, it didn't matter, I had to have the drugs at any expense. Everyone tried to help, my son's dad thought if he got custody of the only thing that's ever mattered to me it would open my eyes. It didn't. My family took my home - didn't help. Getting arrested a million times didn't help.

My lowest moment? There's so many. The abortion wasn't from my using but from another person's using, my son being taken, my family not trusting/talking to/ or even wanting me around, switching from pills to heroin, using a needle for the first time, getting hep c. robbing a pharmacy because I couldn't go without and I had nothing left. All low points none of which were low enough.

I ended up in drug court in 2014 and they sent me to treatment. It was great and I thought I'd be fine, but I wasn't. Although the last time I put an opioid in my body was Oct. 6, 2014, that's not my clean date. The withdrawals were bad enough, and the monster of a person I became I refuse to ever touch them again. I couldn't stay clean in drug court. I switched my drug of choice to meth. I ended up going to prison Sept 25, 2015. That still wasn't enough I used while I was in there. I was so scared to get out because I knew I'd be right back. The drugs had a hold of me and I didn't know how to live with them or without them. I got out of prison Aug 4, 2016.

Anyway, I got out of prison and decided I needed something different, I went to a recovery house. For the first time in my life, I supported myself. I've always had my family or been married. I started going to NA and reading the literature, it was like they wrote a book on my life. They knew all the secrets I wasn't judged or put down for the things I did. For the first time in years, I was me not what I had done. I began to build a relationship with my son and his dad, my parents and siblings. My life was great! But I was still broken.

I relapsed last year. This time I knew it wasn't what I wanted. I'm not destined to be a junky. I'll be an addict for the rest of my life and I've accepted that. I can never have just one drink, one pill, one anything. Today I believe in the disease concept. I believe that addiction is a mental illness. I'm obsessive and compulsive in all areas. I get an idea in my head and go for it without the thought of consequence. I believe this is incurable, but I believe there are things you can do to help. For me, I have to actively work on changing my thought process. The problem is this thing is in my brain right so it talks to me in my own voice, is a scary thought to realize you can't trust yourself. So what I do to combat it stays in constant contact with people in the recovery process. Normal people don't understand that my brain tells me I'm not good enough for this life, that I'm too fat, I'm a shitty mom, a disgrace of a daughter. Every day I wake up and choose to not believe those things some days are harder than others.

Today my life is as beautiful as I allow it to be, I have a relationship with a God of my understanding. He isn't condemning, he is loving and forgiving. For me, that's most important. If I don't have anything that loves me unconditionally I'm screwed. I resented God for making me an addict for so long today I am grateful. I know I was put on this Earth to help others and I live every day of my life doing just that. I don't preach NA, it's not for everyone and that's completely fine. But it is what works for me. It's given me a life that just two years ago I would have never thought possible. Right now I'm in Colorado with my amazing boyfriend who is also in recovery, with both of our kids and my siblings. I never thought those relationships would heal. I walked out of everyone's lives 7 years ago and today I'm back as if I never left. That what recovery gave me. A life so beautiful it brings me to tears regularly. But I know the moment I stop helping people and sharing my story, or I let go of God it's all gone. I will be right back where I was.

My family is aware of the fact I can't drink and they are supportive, they know my phone rings and it's an addict on the other line who needs help and they love it. I chose to have my son in the rooms of NA for the first year because the chances of him being an addict with all he's been through are high. I want him to know how hard this is, but it's possible. He knows about my relapse and so does his dad. His dad and stepmom are two of my best friends. What keeps me clean? I'd love to say my son but the truth is he isn't enough and never was. That's a hard reality. The will to live, keeps me clean, staying in the recovery process keeps me clean. Talking with other addicts and never wanting to be where they keep me in the recovery process.

People think all addicts had a choice and it's just not true if I could have just quit I would have long ago it's not that simple. For one I had 8 surgeries on my arm and spent a year in the hospital on pain pills. Not every addict is the same, our stories are all different we all have a different rock bottom. What is the same for us all is that if we don't find some form of recovery our end results are jail, institutions or death?

Death is a part of my story. I've overdosed twice. The first time was so bad I was in a coma for 3 days. The second I was pronounced dead, no heartbeat, no breathing. They brought me back but at a price. My brain would forget to tell me to breathe if I fell asleep so I was in ICU on a breathing machine. My memory is shot from lack of oxygen, its something I still struggle with. Sometimes it's hard to form a thought. I stumble over my words a lot and it's frustrating. Since I've stopped using my anxiety is so high it's hard to leave the house some days. I don't share when I go to meetings because I start shaking and sweating and my vision goes blurry from anxiety. I never used to be like that. I have always been outgoing and now I'm a recluse. This isn't something I'd wish on my worst enemy.

Not every addict is totally bad. We're human and not every addict had a choice. I started out taking everything as prescribed. I didn't buy it off the street, it wasn't passed around at a party. For me, my doctor was my drug dealer and I had no clue I was an addict.who would have thought all of that would come from a Lortab something millions of people are given daily.

Clay Martin, 26, Recovering Addict



I was 19 when I took my first opiate with the intent of getting high. I used them because I was going through a very hard time in life mentally and alcohol was making it worse. But I was willing to do anything to get out of my head and oxy was what was available so I thought why not. Opiates were my go-to drug but once I started down that road it was coke, meth, oxy, heroin and basically anything I could put in a rig and shoot up. I was already an alcoholic but once I found drugs I basically quit drinking.

It became an addiction the very first time I tried it I would say. I was hooked from the first oxy I took. I wanted more of it 5 min after I snorted the first one.

Opiates made me feel free when I was high. Free from everything that was bothering me and free from myself. My fears anxiety depression and everything was gone and I felt like I was on top of the world. The main thing that kept me wanting more I think is that it got me outta my own head. Like I said all my anger and depression just vanished in seconds. As fast as I could push it in a vein was as fast as all the negativity went away.

It affected my life in so many negative ways I don't even know if I can remember all of them. From living in hotels to being homeless to almost having to spend 25 years of my life in prison in Texas which is a miracle I didn't do a single day in prison just a few months in ft worth jail. I still to this day look over my shoulder for the things I've done it's much better now and now that I don't live in Texas which is where I did most of my criminal activity that could have got me sent away for a long time. After my first arrest in Texas which was kinda scary cause I had never been to jail but one time and it was in a tiny town for about 3 hours on a DUI after that arrest and being interrogated by these cops in ski masks and then I'll never forget the first time my lawyer came and saw me and said they are offering you 25 years. I about died lol cause I was young and it didn't really sink in that I may not be free for a long time. But the grand jury didn't think it was solid enough to go to trial so they dropped the charges. And I went on to be arrested like 4 more times in Arlington Dallas and ft worth. I took a plea deal on those charges but they weren't major felonies like the first one. Those were my lowest points I think. In a jail with more people in it then where I'm from and still wanting to get high even with all this happening. My lowest point was my time in Texas. The things I did to people to get high. The living in a different hotel every night the constantly wondering when someone was gonna find us and kick our door in. But I found coke then too so I was up a lot and paranoid. Hopeless is an understatement for that time of my life.

I have a thousand stories lol none good. You think it's cool at the time then you sober up for 5 min and are more miserable than you were before.

Aurielle Martin, 27, Recovering Addict
Q: When/why did you use opioids for the first time?
A: My first time I used any type of opiate I was 13 years old. I was with some really bad people and was first introduced to hydrocodones by an ex-boyfriend who was selling them. Everyone was trying them at this time and so I wanted too as well.

Q: What feeling did opioid use give you?
A: I felt like I didn't need to control everything, it made me happy and not so depressed, I didn't know at this time that I had some serious mental health issues and the opiates made it easier for me to function and not feel so different.

Q: When did it become an addiction?
A: When I turned 15 I was in full-blown addiction & now at 27 I've been to 8 rehabs and my drug abuse escalated from hydros a couple times a day to 26 pills a day to black tar heroin addiction smoking 2/3 grams a day.

Q: How did opioid addiction affect your life?
A: What life? I had no life. I was an amazing basketball player with a chance to go to any school most likely on a full ride and I threw it all away for drugs, I lost my family and friends and god. God didn't turn his back on me but I did on him and it just got worse and worse as it progressed.

Q: Did your family or friends try to help you?
A: Oh lord more than anyone will ever know, they spent into the 100,000$ for my recovery.

Q: What was your lowest moment while doing opioids?
A: When I was homeless in the streets and stripping to support my heroin addiction, I was raised in a very wealthy good home and had lost contact with my family because I had stolen everything from them.

Q: What made you want to get help?
A: When I finally saw what I truly had become. I had nothing and no one.

Q: What did your rehabilitation look like?
A: Turmoil. It's was so chaotic, ups and downs but I realized that I would never stay sober until I got help with my mental health. I'm bipolar, have PTSD and anxiety and was not on any meds.

Q: Why was your treatment successful?
A: Yes!! I've been clean and sober for 4 years now! But I'm originally from Arlington Texas and had to move 5 hours away to Poteau ok and start over completely new!

Q: Many people see addicts & think why don't they just stop?! Can you explain from an addict's view why it isn't that simple?
A: I wish it was that simple I really do. We know what we are doing. We never wake up one day and say hey I wanna be a junkie. But we have some serious things in life that happen and we have never been taught a proper way of coping with certain situations. I pray that no one has to love an addict or see the day they become an addict. Every day is a battle for us. We fight every single day!

Q: What do you wish addicts knew or tried?
A: You can't do this without a higher power and mess-ups happen! But you must keep going no matter what! It's a fight for your life remember that!

Q: How do you think it affected your family/friends?
A: No words can describe the pain I've put my family and friends through and I will work the rest of my life for forgiveness. They are the true soldiers in this.

Q: What's your life like now?
A: Undeserving. I have a life I've never deserved a family that has forgiven me and loves me. God truly has saved me.

Q: What has sobriety been like?
A: Is it a struggle to stay sober? Very hard. Yes, every day is a struggle. Some are easier than others.

So there it is. There is a realistic look into the life of an addict or a loved one of an addict. It's painful and gut-wrenching, often with a disastrous ending. If you're an addict or the loved one of an addict looking for help or answers, I've included some resources below.

I encourage you to share this on your social media platforms (with the hashtags: #ThisIsOpioidAddiction #ItsTimeToTalkAboutOpioidAddiction #IAmOpioidAddiction #WeAreOpioidAddiction #DontSilenceOpioidAddiction) in order to open up dialogue about this epidemic and start working toward real resolutions. Share this to those you know are struggling with addiction or those who have a friend or family member struggling with addiction. If we talk about this instead of silencing it, maybe we can work towards rebuilding and saving lives across the country.

Netflix Documentary - Recovery Boys (shows a great deal about the cycle of relapse)

https://www.fourcirclesrecovery.com/about/articles/meditation-recovery/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2800788/

https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/recovery-blog/can-meditation-help-beat-addiction/#gref

http://www.basisonline.org/2017/04/one-moment-at-a-time-mindfulness-meditation-and-hope-for-addiction-treatment.html

https://tmhome.com/benefits/meditation-recovery-ad...

https://psmag.com/social-justice/75-years-alcoholics-anonymous-time-admit-problem-74268

https://www.aaap.org/patients/helpful-links/

https://maps.org/about/mission

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1402780

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740547203001259

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871603003405

https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031914-122957

http://www.pnas.org/content/95/16/9608.short

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/resources-heroin-opioid-addiction-treatment-support/story?id=37352500

https://www.asam.org/resources/patient-resources

https://www.opioidrecovery.org/resources/

https://www.aaap.org/patients/helpful-links/

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